The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Haptic Feedback

We are at an interesting point in time for motorcycles, namely because the technological landscape for the transportation sector is shifting radically. Long-time readers of Asphalt & Rubber will note some of the issues at play here, namely autonomous vehicles, rider aids, and vehicle interconnectivity. Over the next few weeks I want to revisit those items in more depth and detail, with a series that focuses on emerging technologies that are either already permeating into our two-wheeled lifestyle, or will be hitting the motorcycle industry over the next decade or so. But before I tackle the more obvious items on this list, I want to invest some words on a lesser-known technological innovation, which has the potential to be the next, “next big thing” in the motorcycle industry.

You Already Want This Honda Grom Race Bike from HRC

Understanding one’s lust for a Honda Grom is a lot like explaining good pornography: it is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. That idea encapsulates everything you need to know about Honda’s monkey bike. We can’t tell you why you want one, we just know that you do. Honda’s sales on the Grom back that notion up, as well. Beyond being just an adorable grocery-getter, we are seeing a plethora of Groms at the race track – and not just as pit bikes. Grom racing is becoming a thing, with more than a few minimoto series making spec-classes for Honda Grom racers, or including them in their 150cc programs. To that end, Honda’s racing department, HRC, has the Grom that you want – nay – need. Behold, the Honda Grom race bike from HRC.

Honda CBR250RR Headlight Spotted in Patents

We are literally marking time until Big Red debuts the Honda CBR250RR, the sportier sibling to the Honda CBR250R, which should rev to the moon and make more power with its two-cylinder engine. We have seen the prototype of the Honda CBR250RR already at trade shows, and the new CBR250RR is definitely on the edgier side of things, which is surprising coming the ever-conservative minds at Honda. How much of the edgy design will remain in the production version has yet to be seen, but we do have our first glimpse of some of the machine. The headlight shape has been filed with European patent offices, which is sort of a weird thing to be reporting on, but it does show insight into where Honda is headed.

Could BMW Be Working on an XDiavel Killer?

Here’s some more BMW Motorrad speculation for your two-wheeled consumption, as Germany’s Motorrad Magazine says that BMW is looking to take on the Ducati XDiavel, with a power cruiser model of its own. This of course isn’t the first time that BMW has included a cruiser-styled motorcycle in its lineup, with the BMW R1200C being a unique, though slightly odd, offering to the cruiser demographic. Like Ducati, BMW seems to be learning from its mistakes in going after the cruiser crowd, and instead of offering a motorcycle that is BMW’s take on the cruiser concept, they are building a cruiser that has cues back to the BMW lineup. A subtle but potent distinction. Time will tell on how this rumor plays out, though there are number of interesting things to consider with a BMW power cruiser.

Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles. As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride. With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Is BMW Working on 300cc GS Model?

When the BMW G310R arrived, the German brand indicated that the small-displacement street bike would be the first of many model based on the 313cc platform. Now it seems that the first iteration is ready to drop, with news that BMW Motorrad is working on a G310R-based adventure-touer model. According to Motorcycle Sport and Leisure, BMW Motorrad UK’s Director Phil Horton has confirmed that a BMW G310GS model will debut, perhaps in time for the 2017 model year, saying “new models aside, the line-up isn’t as comprehensive as it needs to be. But there are plenty more bikes to come, including, hopefully in 2017, a G310R GS-style derivative.” The idea of small-displacement ADV machine does mimic what we have been seeing from other brands.

EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events. The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts. Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

Honda Halts Operations at Its Kumamoto Factory After Earthquakes Strike Japan

If you have been following mainstream news, you will know that the Pacific Rim has been active with earthquake activity these past few days. In addition to the devastating movements in Ecuador, Japan has been rocked by a series of earthquakes as well, two of which have centered on the Kumamoto prefecture of the country. If that names sounds familiar to motorcycle enthusiasts, it is because Kumamoto is Honda’s mothership for motorcycle production. As such, Honda is halting the operations of its Kumamoto factory, thru the rest of this week (ending April 22, 2016). Honda says that its subsequent production plans will be determined according to facility restorations and component supply.

Lorenzo To Ducati: Why It Happened & What Happens Next

In case you missed it, Jorge Lorenzo has signed with Ducati Corse for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP World Championship seasons. It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed. We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.

It’s Official, Jorge Lorenzo Will Race with Ducati Corse

As expected, the announcement dropped today that Jorge Lorenzo will be leaving the Movistar Yamaha team at the end of this season, for a new racing opportunity with Ducati Corse. Details are light at this time, mostly because of Lorenzo’s ongoing contract with Yamaha Racing for the rest of the MotoGP season, but we do know that the Spaniard has inked a two-year with the Italian outfit. Lorenzo’s move to Ducati will mean a cascade of changes in the MotoGP paddock, with the next phase of the silly season process likely to focus on who will replace him as Valentino Rossi’s teammate. Good money is on Maverick Viñales, but as we pointed out in the latest Paddock Pass Podcast episode, Suzuki has redoubled its efforts to retain the young Spanish rider.

Preview of the Americas GP: Yamaha & Ducati vs. Honda, And The Effect of Rain on All Three Classes

04/09/2015 @ 8:33 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

circuit-of-the-americas-cota

Ever since he first entered the MotoGP class, Marc Márquez has owned the Circuit of the Americas at Austin. In 2013, in just his second ever MotoGP event, he was fastest in all but two practice sessions, then went on to win the race, becoming the youngest ever MotoGP winner in the process.

A year later, he was fastest in every session, and extended his advantage over his teammate in the race, winning by over four seconds. The gap to third that year was demoralizing: Andrea Dovizioso crossed the line nearly 21 seconds after Márquez had taking victory.

With two one-two victories for Honda in two years at Austin, does anyone else really stand a chance? Surprisingly, it seems there might be.

Much has changed over the past year: the renaissance at Ducati, the improvements at Yamaha, both of the bike and, more significantly, of the riders. And with Dani Pedrosa out with injury, Márquez faces the challenge from Movistar Yamaha and factory Ducati alone.

Trackside Tuesday: The Austin Selfie

04/07/2015 @ 1:33 pm, by Tony Goldsmith20 COMMENTS

Trackside-Tuesday-MotoGP-Austin-Tony-Goldsmith-1

I’ve arrived in Austin and settled into my digs ahead of Round 2 of the 2015 MotoGP World Championship.

As I sat down to write ahead of the coming weekend, I thought back to one of my favorites times from last year.

I’d had a great holiday with my partner Clare prior to coming to the 2014 race and really enjoyed the Austin experience.

While thinking about the weekend I wondered as to what, if any, images still stood in my memory from last year. One I immediately thought of was the MotoGP podium selfie of Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, and Andrea Dovizioso.

MotoGP: Why Hiroshi Aoyama Is Replacing Dani Pedrosa

04/02/2015 @ 12:17 pm, by David Emmett38 COMMENTS

honda-rc213v-pit-front-wheel-jensen-beeler

Dani Pedrosa’s announcement after the Qatar Grand Prix that he would be withdrawing from racing to seek urgent treatment for arm pump immediately triggered an explosion of speculation over who might replace the Spaniard during his absence.

Fans and pundits offered a barrage of possible names to take Pedrosa’s place: Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow, Michael van der Mark, Jack Miller, Nicky Hayden.

Coming as it did just before April Fool’s day, it even triggered a spate of hoax stories: Casey Stoner, Mick Doohan, Alex Marquez, and Fabio Quartararo were all offered in jest.

Hiroshi Aoyama was always going to be the man to replace Pedrosa, however. For a range of reasons, Aoyama is the only reasonable candidate to take the place of Pedrosa in the short term, all the other names being bandied about subject to sponsor conflicts, race conflicts, contractual obligations or just plain unwillingness.

Here’s a rundown of why Aoayama got the call, and the others didn’t.

Dani Pedrosa Having Surgery for Arm Pump, Hiroshi Aoyama Will Race at Austin & Argentina

04/02/2015 @ 11:45 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Silverstone-BritishGP-MotoGP-Tony-Goldsmith-LTD-5

Dani Pedrosa is to undergo surgery on his right forearm, to treat the arm pump that has plagued him for the past year. The Spaniard is to be treated in Spain, by Dr. Angel Villamor, who has treated many other racers for the same problem.

Surgery is scheduled to take place on Friday morning, with a recovery period of four to six weeks afterwards, meaning that Pedrosa is certain to miss both the Austin and Argentina rounds of MotoGP.

As such, Hiroshi Aoyama will replace Pedrosa for the two upcoming rounds.

Video: Dane Westby at the COTA Tire Test

03/26/2015 @ 1:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

dane-westby-the-wolverine

The American road racing community is still coming to grips with the loss of Dane Westby this week, after the 28-year-old died tragically while riding his street bike in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

While his family, friends, and fans work through their grief over the loss of Dane, we can at least remember “The Wolverine” for the competitor that he was.

As such, Yamaha has put together a nice video of Dane at the MotoAmerica tire test at COTA. Set to race in the Superstock 1000 class this year, Dane clearly was measuring himself against the faster guys in the Superbike class — the true mark of a true competitor.

That’s just one of the reasons why everyone liked him so much

Video: Two Minutes at COTA With Kevin Schwantz

03/25/2015 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

kevin-schwantz-cota-video

The eyes of two-wheeled fans may be honed in on Qatar right now, but our mind is already thinking of MotoGP’s first stop in the USA this season, at The Circuit of the Americas. Helping whet our appetite for the Texan race is local boy himself, Kevin Schwantz.

Now that COTA and Schwantz have settled their differences, the former-World Champion is passing his time as an ambassador for the Americas GP. As such, we have a video of #34 going around the 3.4-mile GP circuit, explaining the course’s various aspects while aboard the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Report: COTA Brings Nearly $900 Million to Austin

10/29/2014 @ 12:47 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

rossi-aerial-cota-motogp-jensen-beeler

In a report commissioned and released by the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), and prepared by the Greyhill Advisors, it would seem that hosting MotoGP and other events at the newly built track was a benefit to the local Austin economy this year, to the tune of $897 million.

The Greyhill’s analysis covers all of the events held at COTA, such as Formula One, MotoGP, and the ESPN X-Games, and it also includes all track rentals, concerts, and other events at the track as well.

Through these events, 1.1 million people attended COTA, whose operations directly account for $166 million of the $897 million brought to the area. The remaining $731 million comes from money spent by attendees outside of the track.

MotoAmerica’s Provisional 2015 Racing Calendar Released

10/10/2014 @ 1:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

motoamerica-logo

There is positive momentum around America’s new MotoAmerica series, which will takeover duties from DMG and AMA Pro Road Racing, starting next season. We have already seen the series’ new class structure, which makes significant steps to parallel what’s going on in the World Superbike Championship.

Today, we see MotoAmerica’s efforts on its racing schedule, a hot-ticket item after DMG’s five, then six, race schedule this season. American fans should rejoice, as eight races are on the calendar, which reads like a greatest hits album of American race tracks.

Supporting both American grand prix at COTA and Indy, as well as the WSBK round at Laguna Seca, the provisional MotoAmerica calendar includes, Road Atlanta, VIR, Road America, Barber, and NJMP. West Coast racing fans are still S.O.L. though, with only one race west of The Rockies on the docket thus far.

Photos from 250+ Feet up COTA’s Petrolsaurus Rex

04/17/2014 @ 1:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

marc-marquez-aerial-cota-motogp-jensen-beeler

As a fifth-generation Californian,  I am obliged to lament the decision to drop Laguna Seca, and to focus American MotoGP racing efforts on solely Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Circuit of the Americas. That being said, while the California track is a superb race course to ride, the facilities and general location are no where close to the level that is provided by Indy and COTA.

Nothing illustrates this better than the Grand Prix of the Americas that Austin, Texas just hosted. The track is simply a spectacle, and if a certain Marc Marquez wasn’t such a child prodigy, the MotoGP race would have been just as exciting at the ones seen in Moto2 and Moto3.

Standing 251 feet above Turns 16, 17, & 18, the COTA observation tower provides a bird’s eye view of just about every tun on the circuit, if you can stomach its subtle sway in the wind and clear-glass floor at the precipice. Officially called by COTA as the “Observation Tower” (note the “recommended for editors” capitalization), the tower really needs a better name for casual conversation.

We’ve heard COTA Cobra used a few times with some lovely alliteration, but the structure has always struck us as less snake-like, and more like a big dinosaur — we’re going to use the name “Petrolsaurus Rex” until I hear something better, or COTA sends me a cease and desist order.

Nomenclature aside, the view from the Petrolsaurus Rex platform highlights the great attention to detail that COTA went to for Formula 1 and MotoGP viewing. Drawing big red, white, and blue lines along the course, a quick straw poll from photographers sees COTA being one of the more photogenic race courses (something one could not say about Laguna Seca).

I climbed to the top of Petrolsaurus Rex (read: took the elevator) during the MotoGP Warm-Up session, and snapped a few photos in the process. Enjoy the hi-res photos after the jump. There’s a certain minimalist quality to having GP bikes next to long contrasting lines.

Kevin Schwantz Tests Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP Bike at COTA, While Randy De Puniet Matches Pace of Open Bikes

04/16/2014 @ 3:32 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

Kevin-Schwantz-Randy-de-Puniet-Suzuki-XRH-1-MotoGP-COTA-test-22

Suzuki’s MotoGP test team took advantage of the presence of the MotoGP paddock at Austin to plan a test directly after the Grand Prix of the Americas.

Under the watchful eye of team manager Davide Brivio, the team planned to have test rider Randy De Puniet put in three days of testing at a circuit, as the team had not yet tested the Suzuki XRH-1 at COTA, in a bid to gather more data ahead of their return to the series in 2015.

Unfortunately for Suzuki, very heavy hail and thunderstorms made testing extremely difficult on Monday, leaving the track very dirty and much slower than it had been for Sunday’s race. But testing resumed in earnest on Tuesday, with Randy De Puniet running through testing electronics and another back-to-back test of the two chassis options Suzuki has been working on.